CHANGES AT THE TOP IN JAPAN AND ISRAEL: A LOOK
"[China is]a neighbour with one billion people equipped with nuclear bombs and has expanded its military outlays by double digits for 17 years in a row, and it is unclear as to what this is being used for. It is beginning to be a considerable threat....He went on: "We would not be saying that [China] is a threat if the content of its military expenses are clearly known... the lack of transparency fans distrust."
Then Japanese Foreign Minister, Aso Taro, 22 December 2005, in ww.bbc.co.uk
"I think there is a connection between Israel's international standing and our internal situation. They are not disconnected, because our ability to achieve our objectives depends, among other things, upon the world’s willingness to accept some of our fundamental principles, and to support or at least not oppose the actions we must take.
We must first remind ourselves of the common denominator between all of us here. I repeat it like a mantra, because it has to be the writing on the wall, and it is Israel’s supreme goal: its existence as a Jewish and democratic state, with those values integrated rather than in conflict, a state that is as secure as possible and living in peace with its neighbors in the Land of Israel.
I believe it is possible to integrate both these values at once. The need to do so unquestionably mandates certain political decisions, as they also pertain to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But this writing has to be on the wall, because all of our decisions derive from it. I am speaking now of the decisions made by the people sitting in government meetings. Options in the Middle East always involve choosing between bad options in complex situations, and there’s usually a clash between the long run and the short run. Just looking at our most recent decisions - you can paint a short-term picture of calm that still may cost us strategically in the long term. We must always consider whether the price is worthwhile and if the alternative would have exacted a higher strategic price or not. We cannot allow ourselves to look only at the short term....
We have no choice; we know that part of our struggle for survival involves paying the price, whether immediately or later on. We need to make the calculations but all in all the Israeli public knows, and the leadership most certainly knows, that advancing the subjects strategically important to us entails paying a price, sometimes on the spot. The rest of the world, mainly meaning some of the European countries for our purposes, understands the threat, but some are unwilling to pay the price.
Therefore the negotiating process I'm currently conducting with the Palestinians must be very specific regarding borders, security and the solution of the conflict, so that the agreement that I hope we can draft and sign will express what I think are the interests of both sides, but certainly Israel's interests, and not be yet another paper sketching out a few principles which becomes another point of ongoing frustration, as has happened so far.
No doubt this dialogue serves Israel's interests but also answers Israel's needs in the international context - though I admit that I the main if not only thing I take into the room when I meet with the Palestinians is Israel's interests, and less the international context. First and foremost we must safeguard Israel's interests. But in this case I think Israel's interests have something in common with improving our status in the international community. The actions we take and the decisions we make today are meant to serve our long-term interests and are not just something for the "here and now" and tomorrow morning’s headlines".
Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Deputy Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni, Address to the Institute of National Security Studies, "The State of the Nation", 22 June 2008, in www.mfa.gov.il
Rarely does it occur that two prominent, foreign ministers / ex-foreign ministers, become shoe-ins, to become Prime Ministers, on the very same day. Which is what occurred today in Japan and Israel. Both prospective appointments, I would argue are good news overall. In the case of Aso Taro, he is a nationalist of the school of ex-Prime Ministers Koizumi & Abe, under whom he served as foreign minister. Suspicious of China and North Korea, Aso, is a strong proponent of Japan's alliance system with the USA and Australia. In addition, he is an adherent of the need for Japan to psychologically throw-off the shackles of the post-war occupation. Something which he, as the scion of two of post-Tokugawa Japan's, greatest political leaders: Okubo Toshimichi, and Yoshida Shigeru, is well-placed to do. A Roman Catholic like his grand-father (Yoshida), Aso is someone who has had a life-long contact with and experience of the West. One can only hope that his term of office will be a long one, and, that under his leadership, Japan experiences a renaissance, both politically and economically. And, of course also hope that his Liberal Democratic party wins the next upcoming election.
In the case of Israel, while I cannot speak as positively for the selection by the governing Kadima party, of Foreign Minister Livni, it is still very much the case of faute de mieux. With at this point, any one, other than ex-Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Barak, being a better choice than the hapless and overwhelmed, not to speak corrupt, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Whose penchant for 'masterly inactivity' and ineptness, was exposed for all to see during the 2006 War with the Lebanon. And, while I can hardly applaud, someone whose antecedents are those of the old, 'Revisionist', terrorist Likud, the fact of the matter is, that in the current Israeli political climate, Livni, is by far the best possible selection for the post of Prime Minister available. If nothing else, as indicated by her speech earlier this year, she seems to recognize the fact that without forward movement on the peace front, Israel's room for diplomatic and other maneuver, will become more and more limited. With its strategic and other positions, still relatively strong in the short term, it behooves Tel Aviv, to forge ahead with peacemaking with both the Palestinians and with the Assad Fils regime in Damascus. American caveats notwithstanding. It would appear on the surface, that under a new administration in Washington, DC., that Livni will indeed press forward with precisely that goal in mind. Let us wait and see.